Will Apple ever open up its mobile platform to allow the use of third-party keyboards? Y'know, customizable boards that have features like clever word-prediction algorithms and finger-swiping gestures? Despite CEO Tim Cook's suggestion last May that we might see iOS open up more in the future, we've seen no strong indication that alternative keyboards are even on the drawing board at present time. Fortunately, some developers are finding small workarounds to this dilemma: Even though they aren't allowed to change the keyboard on the platform level, it's possible to do so within third-party applications. Fleksy is a prime example of a company that's thinking outside the box, opening up a developer kit allowing third parties to incorporate the Fleksy keyboard into their own app.
SwiftKey is also making the jump to iOS, but it's taking a different approach: The keyboard maker just announced SwiftKey Note, a note-taking app that's integrated with your Evernote account. This is great news for current Evernote users, and it may even be enough of an incentive for newbies to try it out. Using the new Note app, you'll be able to create notes that sync up with the account on your desktop or other mobile app. But what's more important is that you'll have the help of SwiftKey's trusty and faithful word-prediction engine combined with the look of the default iOS 7 keyboard. We've got a gallery, video and additional impressions after the break.
SwiftKey Note screenshots
However, this version of SwiftKey is much more minimal than what you can currently get on Android -- essentially, you're looking at an iOS 7 keyboard with an extra bar on top for word predictions and a few formatting options (if you swipe to the left on that bar, you'll find a set of buttons for bold, underline, italics, indent and bullet points). We found that we could type faster on this keyboard than the standard iOS version, so it's off to a decent start, but longtime fans of the Android version may be frustrated by the limited number of features. No swipe gestures, customizable themes, adjustable sizes or anything of the sort, at least not yet; this is the first version, after all, so we're hopeful that SwiftKey will continue pouring more features into the project.
Still, for all that it's missing, some of the key ingredients of a good note-taking keyboard are there. Not only do you get to enjoy the same word-prediction engine found on the Android platform, the keyboard also gets smarter as you type; the more you do it, the more it'll be able to figure out your patterns. (Again, this has been done on Android for a long time, but it's refreshing to see on a platform like iOS.) To take it a step further, it also looks at your Evernote archive to get an idea of your personal writing style, and even keeps track of stats like how many keystrokes you've saved and how efficient SwiftKey makes you. Five languages are also currently supported: English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. The app is free and available on the App Store starting today on iPhones and iPads. It'll work on devices running iOS 6 or higher, but the formatting options are only available for iOS 7. And who knows -- perhaps the app will be enough to grab Sir Jony Ive's attention.